Advocate General ECJ on E-lending
Advocate General M. Szpunar says that time-limited e-lending is allowed under EU law and interpretation of copyright norms must evolve with technology. He advised the CJEU to rule that Article 1(1) of the Rental and Lending Rights Directive must be interpreted in the sense of including the right to lend electronic books included in a library's own collection. The full text of his conclusion (pdf, in English) or any other European language can be found at curia.europa.eu.
The conclusion of the Advocate General followed the hearing that took place on 9 March 2016 before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the Dutch E-lending case.
This case was initiated by the Dutch Association of Public Libraries (VOB) against the Dutch Public Lending Right Office (Stichting Leenrecht). The Dutch Association of Publishers (NUV), Stichting Lira (the collecting society for authors) and Stichting Pictoright (the collecting society for visual authors) intervened in the proceedings. During the hearing all parties argued their positions on the lending of e-books by public libraries. The European Commission and several member states also pleaded their case.
The VOB argued that the exception for public lending should also cover the lending of e-books, so that public libraries can fulfill their statutory duties and ensure that e-books are easily accessible for everybody. Lira and Pictoright also argued in favour of an exception for e-lending because that is the only way to guarantee an appropriate income for authors. NUV pleaded that the lending of e-books is not comparable with the lending of tangible copies and therefore should not be covered by the exception for public lending. According to NUV, an exception for e-lending would lead to a severe distortion in the market.
Because the outcome of these proceedings will have far-reaching consequences for other European member states, the European Commission and several member states also took a position in this case. The European Commission argued that the exception for public lending also covers the lending of e-books. Based on the context and purpose of the rental and lending right directive and because there is no fundamental difference between e-books and tangible books, e-lending should also be covered by the exception for public lending. Portugal, the United Kingdom, Latvia and Italy also argue that e-lending falls or should fall within the scope of the exception for public lending. Greece, the Czech Republic, Germany and France argue that aforementioned directive and the exception for public lending do not and should not cover the lending of e-books.